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Dame Juliana, The Angling Treatyse and Its Mysteries - Fred Buller and Hugh Falkus

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton

Dame Juliana, The Angling Treatyse and Its Mysteries by Fred Buller and Hugh Falkus is an interesting addition to the Fly Fisher's Classic Library catalogue as it is one of its few original publications, as opposed to its regular re-issues of classic titles.

Dame Juliana's Treatyse is one of the oldest works on fishing and the first printed in English. The two authors took nearly 30 years to get their book to the stage when it was ready for publication. The book starts by looking at the Treatyse and whether or not Dame Juliana Berners wrote it, or, more accurately, compiled it. They make a strong case for her authorship, including visiting the remains of Sopwell Priory, where she was reputedly the abbess, and establishing the location of the frontispiece of the original publication. This would seem to make a strong connection between Sopwell and the Dame but then, in the next chapter, there are some very strong arguments as to why she had nothing to do with the Treatyse.

The best comment on this 'did she?' 'didn't she?' argument lies with an extract from a letter - quoted here - from a Dr GW Goodall 'to a Miss Harrington following some correspondence about the Treatyse which was published in The Sunday Times of 14 December, 1950': 'By the way, the dame (or whoever wrote the book) does not claim to have written it, but to have compiled it. And it is clear from the book itself, that the compiler must have had access to other writings on fishing. But while it has not been shown that Dame Juliana did write or compile the book, it has not been shown that she did not.' So there you have it.

The device of the 'interlinear gloss' and transliteration used by the authors makes it possible to read and understand this wonderful old work. The interlinear gloss has a line of the original text with a transliteration - or modern interpretation - immediately underneath it. You have the original to read if you are unhappy with the modern version, as I was in one or two places. Whoever wrote or compiled it was in no doubt as to the place and importance of fishing: ' . . . but principally for your enjoyment and the health of your body and, more especially, of your soul. . . . . Thus I have proved my contention that the sport of angling is the best way of bringing a man into a merry frame of mind.'.

'If you wish to be skilful in angling you must first learn to make your tackle.' There follows interesting instructions on making a rod - a telescopic rod no less. Different coloured horse hair lines should be made for different conditions and times of the year. Although the Treatyse covers all manner of fishing methods, as this is a fly fishing site, fly tiers will be interested in the section on flies. The dressings for the 12 flies make interesting reading as do the attempts to tie them by Malcolm Greenhalgh and Jack Heddon (who are among a number of contributors to this book). There are colour plates of the results of their labours.

All in all, this book is a good and interesting read. And it is quite a thought to think that one has read and enjoyed a version of the first book to be printed in colour in England. To be recommended.

This book is also available as a special, signed limited edition of 100 copies only. A real collectors item.

Dame Juliana, The Angling Treatyse and Its Mysteries by Fred Buller and Hugh Falkus. Published by The Flyfisher's Classic Library. 214 pages, leather bound with slip case. Standard edition, limited to 350 numbered copies at £79/$115. Special signed, limited edition of 100 copies £195/$275. www.ffcl.com

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